Tale of a Coconut
In a nutshell . . .
Everything in existence - from a speck of stellar dust to a giant blackhole - has a wonderful tale to tell . . . if we care to listen.
What follows, is the story of an entity, which is one of the intermediate material manifestations of stellar dust in its long and apparently interminable voyage.
It is the story of coconut . . ...
Verse-a-tale of a coconut
I trace my ancestory to the vast sea shores;
I'd laze in the sun and sand, with nary a chore.
Today, I power a global business and more;
Yet, remain my sweet and spotless self at the core.
Who am I ?
From the days of yore, it has been a journey long.
With exploits to provoke many a soulful song.
Looking back, there is neither elation nor remorse.
I am the unassuming and humble coconut of course!
My trees come in many varieties, as it is with all creation.
Very tall ones, that nurture and pursue sky-high aspirations.
Dwarves that are earth-bound and don't see it as a deprivation.
Nuts in a range of sizes, shapes, and hues that defy enumeration.
A part of me becomes a door-mat that is looked down upon and trod.
Another is highly venerated and considered cuisine fit for the gods.
Maybe, these extremes impart a lesson to me; a rather philosophical one.
Or perhaps, it is just an attempt to see virtue, when actually there is none.
The story begins, as I germinate and send a root into the earth and skyward a shoot.
Whether that is truly the beginning, however, is a point that is certainly moot.
From vigorous ascendance to the final fading, it is indeed a typical life story to boot.
But what is the cause and what is the effect - when I am both the seed and the final fruit?
My realm is the tropics, as far as the Sun in its annual sojourn, deigns to go.
Salinity that whittles other vegetation is what makes me flourish and grow.
You may find my kin beyond this domain, as a shadow of my robust self.
Between ice ages, I may have lived and thrived even in the arctic shelf.
Humans find me useful beyond compare, down to my smallest bit.
So much so, that they trace my origin to the dawn of time and beyond it.
They care not what my perspective is and whether with this surmise I agree.
They have coined a sobriquet for me, the "Every-wish-granting-tree".
Trees annually bear upto a hundred nuts each,
Suspended near the crest beyond human reach.
Taking almost a score of months to mature,
From a bud to a fruit that is packed with allure.
I can put on upto a pound of flesh,
Or hold nearly a litre of my tasty juice.
My coir would make more than a table-mat,
While the shell is put to multifarious use.
Humans balance their shortcomings by their ingenuity,
And device a host of very interesting methods to harvest me.
The simplest being striding up steps that are cut into the tree;
Training simians the toughest, "naturals" though they may be.
Some design implements that make the effort appear blithe;
Reaching up with a pole, at the end of which is a scythe.
Or a climbing machine that makes it a child’s play virtually,
Where the legs propel the body up, the hands being totally free.
Possibly, it is my long association with the hominids, from whom I have imbibed
The trait of revelling in large numbers; setting spirit, quality, and essence aside.
It would nevertheless greatly baffle you to know
That the annual harvest figures of a few months ago
Was 79,200,000,000 nuts, which would read
Seventy nine point two billion - staggering indeed.
With a world human population of 7 billions about;
The per capita consumption isn't so much to shout.
Just one a month and while some do consume many;
There are countless around who just go without any.
Many countries cultivate me commercially but there are three who truly dominate;
Together, of the annual global production, 65 percent, they aggregate.
India, the island clusters of Indonesia and The Philippines;
All endowed with high humidity, warmth, and vast coastlines.
I often wonder whether I should accept a price being put upon me.
My worth to myself is immeasurable, whatever others may consider it to be.
There is, however, the satisfaction that millions find employement cultivating me profitably;
And that I – the coconut, power globally, a 10 billion dollar premium industry.
That is only one part of the story though,
As I spawn a score of other related trades.
The pictures shown above are those of
Machines used in the industry as mechanical aids.
Marvel, I certainly do, at man’s creativeness;
Thoroughly awed, I often stand.
When I see him weave magic with my leaves
And his steady unerring hands.
His expertise at crafting with my shells is no less;
I envy his adeptness, I must confess.
Each an accomplished rendering of poetic art
Made from fragments that were once my part.
In raptures, I see the product range made from coir;
Adorning every space – be it a kitchen, bath or foyer.
Ropes and briquettes; drapes and furnishing;
Mats and mattresses, that add color to living.
I have no qualms in claiming that
My wood rivals mahogany and teak.
Grained differently, it has a golden hue,
And comparatively handles easy, so to speak.
My flesh is sun-dried and then crushed to extract oil
In swank refineries – unlike in the past; eliminating much mundane toil.
The residue after extraction - "Oil cake" as it is referred to,
Is productively used as cattle feed and as an organic manure too.
Humans must be crazy - for they use the same word to identify
A cooking apparatus, cooked food, and the party where it is consumed.
I am sure you would have guessed what I allude to - Barbeque -
The meaning and recognition of a range of activities, into it, is subsumed.
You may wonder why, on this matter, and in what context I chose to dwell.
The briquettes that fire a barbecue are made of coconut shells.
My contribution to industry and art is all very nice,
But I am also guilty of promoting a bit of vice.
Sap, collected from the base of my inflorescence
And fermented for a few hours or days thence,
Becomes a strong, heady and intoxicating drink;
Goading - man and his conscience – both, at times, to stink.
There was a time in my life when I just lived,
And never analyzed the whys and wherefores.
Contented and happy in endlessly gazing at
The tireless waves caressing the sandy shores.
The potent combine of modernity and man
Has forced a new and uneasy perspective in me.
Of reason, logic, flowcharts, and algorithms;
Necessary for the contemporary living spree.
It is said that long long ago all life had a common origin
In the primordial lake, amidst blinding lightning and thunderous din.
However, in this muddle of premises and verity, one fact stands out like a stud;
Coconut water is the only natural replacement for human and animal blood.
In coconut oil, there is found, lauric acid in abundance;
The only other similar natural source being human milk.
This substance is transformed to monolaurin in the human body,
Which fights harmful bacteria, viruses and others of their ilk.
Enthusiasts often go bonkers, and to promote me, will even sell their souls;
Smudging the line between decency and deceit, and rave about my traits in hyperboles.
That I am the purest of all waters and the most healthiest too, they unabashedly crow;
That I cleanse every body-organ and awaken all senses; Whether this is true, I don't know.
To accept accolades on a particular count I certainly will not shirk;
Inevitably though that it may entice many a sneer and smirk.
Gasps, ogles and sighs from the audience are supposed to invigorate the beauty queens to be.
The cause for success in every beauty pageant is however, invariably and truly me.
Know this then, Ye unwise selves; I am the best skin moisturizer and softner around.
Glow of skin and silkiness of hair are my bestowals. This is the Truth, even if naysayers abound.
My cultivation isn’t an easy chore;
I have my share of woes.
Hounded by a host of pests,
The farmer is ever on his toes.
And then there is always the ubiquitous rat;
With every living thing it seems to manage a spat.
No doubt it has its place in the natural food chain,
Or perhaps, existence could have done without this pain.
I am quite prone to many diseases as well;
Bacterial, Fungal, Viral, or Phytoplasmal.
To cure me with drugs, farmers do try;
If left unattended, I wither and die.
Providence granting me a full and healthy life,
I would live to see a hundred summers as a tree.
Towering above the land around, I would have
Showered down over 10,000 coconuts free.
Though many living forms consume my meat as food,
To Homo-sapiens has been the exclusive privilege.
Of inventing a zillion recipes for every food source
That is enticing enough to ensnare a commoner or a sage.
Though not a thriller, from a bud to bust,
This has been my life story.
Simple, straigthforward, yet interesting,
And which is neither violent nor gory.
© 2009 Ram Ramakrishnan